By Alfred Koroma
Yesterday, 15 November, 2022, the world’s population reaches 8 billion as projected in July by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Africa and Asia are the largest contributor to that figure. And both continents are projected to drive global population growth until 9 billion is achieved in 2037.
Reaching the milestone is both a cause for celebration and a clarion call for humanity to find solutions to the challenges the world faces, UN says, raising concerns about links between population growth, poverty, and climate change.
“This is a success story, not a doomsday scenario. Our world, despite its challenges, is one where higher shares of people are educated and live healthier lives than at any previous point in history,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said in July. “Focusing exclusively on population totals and growth rates misses the point – and often leads to coercive and counter-productive measures and the erosion of human rights. In fact, people are the solution, not the problem. Experience shows that investing in people, in their rights and choices, is the path to peaceful, prosperous and sustainable societies.”
The UN attributes the growth to human development, with people living longer as a result of improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. It is also because of higher fertility rates in Saharan Africa and other poorer countries in the world.
According to the organization, global life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, an increase of almost 9 years since 1990. Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050.
But the world population reaches 8 billion amidst global crisis. At the moment, the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought while food insecurity, climate change threaten human existence, leaving experts worried.
“Some express concerns that our world is overpopulated,” Channels Television quotes UNFPA Kanem saying. “I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.”
Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Populations told AFP the question of how many people Earth can support has two sides: natural limits and human choices.
Our choices result in humans consuming far more biological resources, such as forests and land, than the planet can regenerate each year. The overconsumption of fossil fuels, for example, leads to more carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for global warming.
“We are stupid. We lacked foresight. We are greedy. We don’t use the information we have. That’s where the choices and the problems lie,” said Cohen, rejecting the idea that humans are a curse on the planet and saying people should be given better choices.
India is projected to become the world’s most populous country in 2023, surpassing China which is experiencing a decline in its population. Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue growing through 2100 and to contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.
More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania whereas the populations of developed countries are expected to experience slower, but still positive, growth through the end of the century.
10 countries contributed to more than half of population growth leading from the 7th to the 8th billion. India was by far the largest contributor, followed by China and Nigeria.
Two-thirds of the global population lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman (also known as replacement fertility).
Global life expectancy at birth reached 72.8 years in 2019, an improvement of almost 9 years since 1990. But in 2021, life expectancy for the least developed countries lagged 7 years behind the global average.
Some countries, including several in sub-Saharan Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean, continue to experience high levels of adolescent fertility, with potential adverse consequences for the health and well-being of both the young mothers and their children.
By 2050, the number of persons aged 65 years or over worldwide is projected to be more than twice the number of children under age 5 and about the same as the number of children under age 12.
Whereas population growth at older ages is driven by lower mortality and increased survival, an upward shift in the population age distribution is caused by a sustained drop in the fertility level.
World’s population will reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and is expected to remain at that level until 2100.